Red Flag Up, by Adam Tavel

Red Flag Up, by Adam Tavel


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Letter to Ruefle Written with Sharpie Inside a Serengeti National Park T-Shirt, Men’s Size Small

I’m no biologist, but the crickets
probably number ten thousand
on our half-acre lawn, bolting
into the mower’s mouth so quickly
that even when I zigzag it’s impossible
to save them. But for the toads I’ll halt
a row and let the engine sputter
into an emphysemic wheeze. Their flutters
against the soft compartment of my gloves
make me feel like a smelly Goodwill couch
of a god. They are stupid creatures
and perhaps that is my tuber
of sympathy for them—they scurry
from the helicopter ruckus
of the weed whacker but never seem
to correctly judge the reach
of its green strings whirring. Just today
I saved a tiny arboreal of an exotic
darker jade than the usual species
flecked with specks of orange that caught
my eye in high dandelions. Minutes
later I spotted a milky sac bulging
grotesquely on a spider nigh
upon her appointed hour to burst
dozens of tiny scramblers. I thought
of startled young nuns standing on chairs
at St. Mary’s who must be wrinkled
and wan as washi paper now. Her body
twitched briefly after I ground it
with my boot heel. You’ve asked
for my definition of poetry.
This seems as good as any.

When we read this collection of epistolary poems we wished we’d been the lucky, actual mailbox recipients of each letter. Binding them into a chapbook for you seemed the next best, and utterly necessary solution.